Even though many of us are studying and working from home, the holiday spirit that typically infuses the hallways, classrooms and common areas of each TMCC location is nonetheless still glowing brightly this season thanks, in no small part, to the Student Resource Committee. This small but mighty group of TMCC faculty and staff work throughout the year to support student success beyond the classroom, by providing access to free food through the TMCC food pantry Wizard’s Warehouse (and additional food drives), access to emergency funds and by spreading awareness of the resources available to students in need.
This work continues—albeit in a slightly different form—despite COVID-19. With help from the TMCC Counseling Center, the committee has “adopted” a dozen TMCC students and their families to make their holiday brighter by providing not only holiday gifts for the students and members of their families but also additional support in the form of access to meals or gift cards for gas.
“Despite everything that is going on, we’re still able to meet the needs of the students,” said Marcie Iannacchione, Career Hub Program Coordinator and co-chair of the committee. “I can’t believe how kind people have been.”
Students who have been adopted this season come from all across the TMCC community, and include students from the Getting Ahead program, Veterans Resource Center, Adult Basic Education and Foster Youth, to name a few. In years past, TMCC departments would coordinate with the Student Resource Committee to “adopt” the family by purchasing requested gifts for household members, which would then be wrapped and picked up by the student and their family on a specified date.
This year, the process is slightly different. Co-chair and TMCC Counseling Center Coordinator Cameron Tuttle had been creating Amazon wishlists based on the students’ needs. When complete, the wishlists will be shared with the department that adopted the student, which can then purchase items on the list. The gifts will then be shipped directly to the student.
“There’s no wrapping the gifts this year, obviously,” Tuttle said. “But it is still quite the project behind the scenes.”
Tuttle and Iannacchione are assisted in the Adopt-A-Student program by Student Resource Committee members, who include: Erin Frock, Grecia Anaya-Arevalo, Debi Pezzuto, Kelly Brisbois and Leone Thierman. “Some of these folks are new members and I think they enjoy participating and helping,” said Iannacchione. “I'm just extremely grateful that we can help these students and their families.”
While a dozen students have been adopted by a handful of TMCC departments, Tuttle and Iannacchione insist that there are many other ways that you can help to spread holiday cheer this season. “We’re always looking for new suggestions,” Iannacchione said. “We’re here to do whatever we can to serve the students.”
Tuttle noted that students this year aren’t asking for traditional gifts so much as they are asking for help with necessities, such as food and gas for their vehicles.
“If you want to help, we are looking for donations of pre-packaged food deals, like those grocery bags of complete holiday meals that can be purchased or donated at grocery stores like Raley’s and Smith’s,” said Tuttle.
Helping Students Beyond the Holidays
In addition to the Adopt-A-Student event, the Student Resource Committee has created a website that lists all the resources available to students, either through TMCC or through a community partner. The committee also typically hosts food drives. In fact, in 2019, the TMCC food drive saw record numbers of food donations.
The committee will be hosting a Fill-A-Bag campaign in February, which will ask those who can to donate various hygiene products to fill bags that can then be distributed to students who need them.
Wizard’s Warehouse, which is temporarily closed to COVID-19, is a source of free nutritious food and hygiene items to anyone who needs them. “Thank goodness Wizard’s Warehouse is there,” said Iannacchione. “Anyone can use it—students, faculty, staff or community members. It is a no-judgment zone.”
And yet, the need among the TMCC community right now is great.
Tuttle, who receives emergency support requests from students, said that this year, the amount of help students are asking for has been on the rise. “Typically, we get 1-2 requests for emergency assistance per semester,” he said. “Since May, we have received 13 requests, not counting those which were eligible for CARES Act funding.”
The bottom line? Iannacchione and Tuttle want students—and faculty and staff—to know that it’s OK to reach out and ask for help if you need it.